December 9, 2007
Everything is Fine
Josh Turner’s talent may not be very broad, but it sure as hell runs deep. From the start, the man has been the master of the traditional country music performance. With his third album, Everything is Fine, Turner solidifies his status as the premier traditionalist of the new generation of country music artists.
What’s most exciting about Turner, however, is his ability to make traditional country music without carbon-copying the music from the past. There is something current and vibrant about this entire record, and I couldn’t help but think of the Patty Loveless records from the mid-nineties, which I refer to as “progressive traditional country music.” It may seem like a contradictory term, but when I hear a song like “Firecracker”, which pulsates with a rock energy without even a hint of anything but country in its arrangement, it makes the staple country music sounds new again. When contrasted with the paint-by-numbers country-pop that populates country radio today, it’s refreshing to listen to.
All this would be academic if the material itself wasn’t so uniformly strong. The understated title track opens up the set, and establishes the tone for the entire record. This is a man who knows who he is and has nothing to prove, and it’s one track after another of well-performed compositions, tastefully arranged.
“The Longer the Wait (The Sweeter the Kiss)” is the best among them, a nautically-themed promise from a man who has gone on to the next world before his wife that he’ll be waiting for him. It makes a nice bookend to “Soulmate”, where a young lover is promising his future wife that he’ll wait at heaven’s gate for her, should he go first.
There’s a sly combination of celebration and contempt in “Trailerhood”, which slips in a few implicit criticisms of that lifestyle, while also finding some virtues in it. “Another Try” features harmony vocals by Trisha Yearwood, and the entire arrangement sounds like an homage to the style of his guest vocalist.
There’s also a deeply satisfying guest appearance from R&B staple Anthony Hamilton on “Nowhere Fast”, which could be the inner monologue of a guy who got on that “Long Black Train” that Turner warned about early on in his career. It’s a testament to Turner’s artistry that both of these artists are able to appear on his album without overshadowing him or compromising the integrity of his record. He remains the dominant voice, even when matched with more established talent.
Everything is Fine is a confident, entertaining record by an artist coming fully into his own. Without a weak track in the bunch, Turner has delivered a solid traditional country album that could stand proudly among the better albums by Randy Travis and John Anderson, two clear influences on Turner’s style. In a year chock full of career-defining albums, Turner’s just might be the best by a male artist.
Buy: Everything is Fine